CONTENT WARNING: Death & substance abuse:
“Let’s Go!” Jeremy’s fierce voice barked as he biked down the mountain at brisk speeds, the wind whipping him in the face. He would like to check his watch, but if he looked down, he would crash into the blinding trees around them. Mountain biking was about stamina; how many rounds could you go before it was too much.
“Jeremey, wait up!” My hands grasped the handlebars tighter. We reached one of the steeper slopes, and he stopped. Two paths were in front of us, one was a double black diamond, and the other was just one diamond. Easier for intermediates like us. I wasn’t one to take chances, but Jeremy wanted to be one of the greats. To be great, you had to go bigger. Go one more round.
“Come on, Charlie, it’s going to be fun! I’ll go slow just for you.” I shook my head. The problem with going slow down such a steep hill was you had bigger jumps you needed speed for. I had recently stopped biking since I injured my tailbone on one of the smaller jumps last year. This was my first session since then on the bigger slopes.
“No, man, I have had my dollar's worth. Maybe let’s get a second opinion from some of the guys waiting for us below.” Jermay hesitated and finally agreed. He stepped on his bike and tore past me, My cheeks feeling the wind he generated. I peddled after him, whooping and crying out when he styled a nice bike twist mid-air between jumps. The ground was wet and slippery the Canadian rocks below us were a bit loose. No one had been up here since the last season, it seemed, overgrown and new. We were pioneering through the jungle. Conquering each jump with speed and the right amount of height. That was until after we got to the burms, Jerem’s bike seemed on its last legs. I could see it fishtailing the backend. Jemery was no doubt a bigger guy. His beard and slight beer belly would stand out to the random judger. But to me, he was my best friend, a guy who was able to get me through so much in my life.
“Slow up!” i yelled, the wind whipping me in the face. My hands sweat through my gloves. We were getting closer to rocky sloppy ground. Jeramey ran through the rocks with adrenaline flowing outside his veins. You could see it in his peddling. I saw it happen. A perfect-sized rock came from his front tire, slamming into his chain and somehow getting stuck between the chains forcing them to a sudden halt. Jermy, not expecting this flew over the bars, thankfully into the side bushes, or I might've run over him if I didn’t expect this.
“Dude! Where did that come from,” he said, moving to get up and shake himself off.
“You were going too fast, and the rock got kicked up,” I said gently. I didn’t want to ruin his fun, but I was getting tired and just wanted dinner.
“Sucks, Bro.” He whispered almost to himself. He kicked the small stone from the chains and tossed it into the woods. It hit a tree with a thunk.
“Shows that rock right,” he said; a bit tired and slurred, I thought it was from all the energy he was putting into his crazy stunts.
We made it down the hill with renewed energy. I thought we were done, but when we passed the cars, instead of turning, Jermey kept straight to the bike line.
“Dude, what are you doing? It’s nearly five. We don’t have time!” I moved to turn, but he quickly begged me to come.
“One more round! Let’s go double diamond, it’s the last day of our trip, and I have to do this after that crash.” I struggled to remind him why he crashed, that it could happen again if he went bigger. He just got back in line.
“See you at the bottom.” He said, his face in a frown before he left for the slope. I met him halfway, he took a bit longer than expected to get down, but he made it from the upper half.
“You are missing out, Charles! Those slopes are no joke.” I fought to roll my eyes. He took a swing out of his bottle. I noticed the color.
“Dude! Alcohol, what the fuck!” I tried to swipe the bottle away from him. Maybe this was why he was being so dumb today. He put the bottle back, “Liquid courage, dude! I’m going to be the first of the season to ride this pro line, I swear it.” as he got back on the bike, I could only stare. I knew what he was like when he was drinking. This, however, was a new level of fearlessness or stupid.
“Please don’t get hurt.” I prayed to anyone that was listening, I was not a believer, but if it kept my friend safe, I would do anything.
“One More Round, Charlie!” He screamed as if he were charging into battle. His voice faded as he got further away.
I raced down the paved pathway of the slope. I was far enough down it was easy to get to the bottom before he did. I waited patiently for him. Suddenly I heard a distant scream of agony. The blood in my veins froze, and my body was stunned by the realization. If no one was expecting it, they would have thought it was a bird.
“Medics!” my voice broke, “Medics, please!” I ran up the hill, a few workers following me through the brush, and a crow cawed through the distant winds. Carrying it to us. We passed bike jump after bike jump to find him. We found his bike first. The handlebars were half buried in foliage. We found him nearly twenty feet past the bike, twenty meters past a deep downhill slope. His eyes were open, his mouth hanging open in a scream. He was gone.
I stood at the altar, my friend in the coffin next to me, about to go into the ground. I poured the bottle of liquid courage. “One more round, for Jeramey.” I sobbed. I gulped it down as they lowered the coffin.